City-dwellers often forget the incredible natural beauty Greater Victoria has to offer, but just a short drive from the heart of downtown, there’s a place working to reconnect people, animals and land. We have a small therapeutic hobby farm.
Tucked away among the picturesque rock formations of the Highlands is the Bear and Bee Therapy Farm. There are hiking trails, a small community information board, and even a small free library on the drive up to the farm.
As you enter the driveway to the family-run hobby farm, Cosmo the dog runs down the hill, eager to welcome new people into the home.
Jess Duncan and her mother, Michelle Wagner, run the farm along with Duncan’s husband and children. Chickens, rabbits, goats, lambs, little donkeys and ponies need a lot of help.
That’s why Wagner calls farms “villages” to bring people together to connect with the land and animals.
After purchasing the property two years ago, Duncan wanted to raise the animal-loving side of his children, especially his horse-loving daughter. That’s when the idea of starting a hobby farm really solidified for her and Duncan, which started with two goats and her two sheep on just over seven acres and eventually grew into what it is today. has grown to the appearance of
“We slowly started thinking about how we could use this land in a meaningful way,” says Duncan.
Both Duncan and Wagner have experience in areas that include brain injuries and working with people with different abilities. Mr. Duncan said he would like to incorporate it into their farm.
“I wanted to make it for people who often feel left out because they are inaccessible,” Wagner said. “We have a variety of community groups that come to spend time here. A lot of kids are on Spectrum and what we’ve seen so far is that it’s been really successful for them.” It is different from school where everything is organized in time and activities.”
One child who comes to the farm explores the grounds on his own, prefers chickens to playgrounds, and is often adept at connecting with animals individually.
“We want them to develop the skills and the confidence, the courage and the curiosity that will make them feel away from this place,” Wagner said. It’s a farm, everyone becomes part of that farm. It takes all of us to create a sense of village and connection. Connection is very important to us.”
Through the six-week program, parents can bring their children to the farm once a week to play and care for animals, learn about the land, get outside and build community.
“We do a lot of farm work, activities, purposeful work for the kids,” said Duncan. “The kids feed and help the animals. This kind of purposeful work gives children a lot of self-confidence and boosts their self-esteem.
But this farm isn’t just for people with small children. After listening to parents, they started doing adults-only events like painting nights and wreath making.
Bear ‘N Bee’s real magic lies in their “yes” policy. Duncan and Wagner try to say “yes” to people’s needs regardless of their financial capabilities, and when people ask if they can join the farm, they either offer volunteer slots or join the program if there are openings. I said let me.
When the pandemic destroyed programs from organizations working with people with disabilities, Duncan said he would get messages asking if the farm would become a haven for people to come and have fun or volunteer. Duncan said the best part about owning a farm is getting to say yes to those people.
“We just want to say yes to these people who would otherwise receive a no,” she said. “We wanted to open up our space to the community. “
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